Nice stable weather across the region has greeted Kentucky Lake anglers this week, making it a pleasure to be out and about. Light winds have been the norm and cool mornings with a touch of fog at times kicked off the start that had fishermen shedding jackets and shirts by midday.
Falling lake levels have been part of the fishing scene the last several weeks and this week will see the reservoir drop to its lowest reading since March. The TVA is projecting the reservoir to fall back to 354.9 feet by this weekend at Kentucky Dam.
Since last week, the reservoir has continued to drop slowly, which means significant current has been present in the main Tennessee River channel. Now that lake levels are flirting with the low ebb of winter pool look for the reservoir to stabilize soon.
Surface temperatures have started the day around the 76-degree range and warmed to 79 by midday. Warm days this week put a little summer back in the air. It appears a cool snap will arrive early next week with somewhat cooler days expected and highs only in the mid- to upper 70s.
Water color had been somewhat muddy to dingy in the main river channel lately but that has improved as the falling water has pulled most of the stain out of the bays. The Big Sandy and West Sandy area have relatively clear conditions while the Tennessee River portion has some leftover stained water.
It’s that time of year when boaters best be careful out there. Follow the channel markers and resist the temptation to take open water shortcuts.
With lower lake levels come more hidden obstacles in the form of submerged stumps, logs and sandbars that can damage your boat or pontoon. And, the shallow spots can hurt your feelings, too, as begging for help will humble anyone once you run aground.
Fall crappie have been showing more interest as of late with some scattered fish taken up Big Sandy and West Sandy in shallow zones. Falling lake levels this week likely pulled a few fish out of shallow spots but watch for them to return quickly as lake stages stabilize and schools of shad meander back to relatively shallow flats and bays.
Depths of 4-8 feet will likely start producing once surface temperatures fall back to the lower 70s.
In the Paris Landing sector, the fish have been a bit deeper with most boats targeting the 9- to 13-foot depth range. And, some boats are working main lake ledges and stalking the dropoffs where 13- to 18-foot depths are giving up some scattered fish.
Most anglers are having to make several stops to accumulate decent stringers as not many fishermen are reporting schools of fish. It has been a few here and there for those using vertical jigging and live minnow presentations around manmade fish attractors.
Some boats using spider rig techniques and slowly trolling along the edges of midrange drops or perhaps working deeper stakebeds and brushpiles are having good luck. Jigs have worked but so have live minnows.
It’s not unusual for several different depth zones to produce crappie at this time since we’re still experiencing both summer and fall conditions for temperatures plus falling lake levels. Watch for the shallow bite to improve soon, however.
CATFISH ARE JUMPING
Catfishermen are still enjoying the parade. Despite some swift current this week, a few boaters have just drifted with it along the edge of the river channel and scored hefty stringers.
Depths of 15-20 feet have given up decent numbers but some anglers are going deeper and using heavier lead sinkers to adapt to the swift current so as to keep their bait presentations vertical as they drift along.
Both nightcrawlers and big minnows have continued to produce. Some have tried shrimp with favorable results.
Some catfish appear to have moved up a bit as crappie anglers are tying into them daily while fishing their midrange structures in 9-14 feet. So, that means a few catfish have left deeper venues in pursuit of shad that are making their fall transitions toward shallow zones.
Bass anglers are working the abundant gravel banks and points with shad-colored crankbaits plus fan casting flats and backs of bays with Rattle Trap style lure choices that allow them to cover a lot of water.
When shad begin moving up toward the backs of bays, the fish are roaming open water and following the baitfish, which at times means they’re nowhere near cover.
With the lower lake levels now exposing gravel roadbeds, rocky points and sloping sandbars plus some shallow stump fields, anglers have a lot to cover. Shallow running crankbaits in various shad color variations are popular choices.
Early morning hours with low light conditions are offering some topwater opportunities along the endless shorelines of gravel. It’s hit and miss, but if you find baitfish activity that’s the key.
Some boats have been observed fishing jig and craw combos, swim baits, Texas rigged worms and big crankbaits out on the main lake ledges. The current likely helped that bite somewhat.
Notably absent in the creel of most bass fishermen this year have been spotted bass, commonly referred to as Kentucky bass. Seems the numbers have been diminishing for quite some time as in the past the gravel banks or rip-rap with some current was known to harbor good numbers of spots. Not so as of late.
Now that the pumpkin month has arrived with all its colorful transition, it is indeed a great time to be out on the lake. Colors are already showing signs of change but the peak is still a few weeks away.
Don’t let this great time of year get away from you. Plan a trip and get out on Kentucky Lake as this season of the year is indeed a delightful time for all anglers and pleasure boaters.
STEVE McCADAMS is The Post-Intelligencer’s outdoors writer. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.